Block pleads guilty

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1993:

Miami animal trafficker Matth-
ew Block pleaded guilty to felony conspira-
cy February 9 for his role in the 1990
Bangkok Six case, in which six desperately
ill baby orangutans were intercepted in
Thailand en route from Malaysia to Moscow
via Yugoslavia in a crate marked “birds.”
Three of the orangutans died. The deal was
arranged in violation of the Convention on
International Trade in Endanged Species;
the U.S. prosecutor indicated it was initiated
by the KGB, which hoped to resell the
orangutans after they reached Moscow to
raise hard currency. The guilty plea came
two months after U.S. District Judge James
Kehoe on February 9 refused an attempted

plea bargain. Still under indictment in the
case are Belgrade Zoo director Victor
Buljovic; Dutch animal dealer Kenny
Dekker; and animal dealer James Lee, of
Singapore. Block was credited with cooper-
ating with the prosecution, including
arranging the January 26 arrest of Victor
Bernal, director of zoos and parks for
Mexico D.F., Mexico, as he allegedly tried
to smuggle a gorilla to replace the recently
deceased gorilla at the Toluca Zoo. Bernal
purportedly paid Block $92,500 to arrange
the deal. The arrest was completed by a
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who
wore a gorilla suit to pose as the animal
being smuggled. Block faces a maximum
sentence of five years in jail and a fine of
$250,000, but according to Shirley McGreal
of the International Primate Protection
League, who had a leading part in cracking
the case, he is likely to get only 18 months.
Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.